It’s Day 3 and our front gate has busted. The Zombs are making their way toward Abel, and we have to distract them away from our front door. Lead them away, and everyone is safe to sleep another night, praying for the daylight. Fail, and we join them. Mindless, wandering, slumbering masses of lifeless evil. Nobody trusts me at camp yet. Honestly, why should they? I’ve only been here for three days and literally fell from the sky when my helo was shot down by an unknown RPG. I have to prove to them that I have their best intentions in mind and Sara (she’s runner 8) isn’t exactly helping with her obvious distrust. Sara, however, needs to watch her own back because that cough seems a bit suspicious. I have my doubts about her health, but for now, I must help out the only way I can; by running.
I am Runner 5
Hard to believe that all of that story can come out of a mobile app. It’s even harder when you consider that Zombies, Run! from Six to Start is, at the most basic of premises, a running app. But Zombies, Run! (henceforth referred to ZR) is different from apps like RunTastic and RunKeeper. Those apps just put some music on in the background and let you know a bit about your pace. That might be great if you’re already motivated enough to run (and let’s face it, if you’ve already downloaded those apps, you probably are), but for lazy folk, like this reviewer, it’s going to take a little bit more than the latest athlete telling me to “pick up [my] pace” to get my to lace up my running shoes and hit the road.
Enter: Zombies, Run!
So how does ZR differentiate itself from other running apps? ZR takes advantage of the current fascination with the walking dead by putting you smack-dab in the middle of your own zombie survival horror story. You become Runner 5, dropped out of a helicopter, shot down by an unknown entity, and thrust into the middle of a war for your life. As Runner 5, you’ll literally run missions to retrieve items, save people, and do various other tasks, all the while being made aware of the fact that around every corner could wait a horde of stumbling zombies, ready to sink their teeth into your gut.
It’s because of this story that I’ve been motivated to hit the pavement every day this week; something I haven’t done in probably close to a year. Full disclosure: I hate running. I don’t like running on a treadmill, or elliptical, or even around a track. How is it, then, that I’ve been hoofing it for 30 minutes every day this week? By immersing myself in the story and becoming Runner 5. The story is compelling enough that I wonder what’s going to happen on my next run. Between communications with home base, music plays (more on this later) allowing you to push forward, just out of reach of the zombies that you’ll hear creeping up on you if you start to slow down your pace. Once you’ve completed your mission, you’ll return to home base with any items you might have found on your run, and assign them to the various parts of camp in an effort to level up your various aspects of camp. As your camp levels up, more missions unlock and more people move into your town. The characters are great, the voice acting and sound are amazing, and everything comes together to provide a fantastic experience that makes me want to run every day.
There has to be something wrong, right?
Unfortunately, yes, but it’s important to note that none of the things I took issue with were deal breakers. For starters, Zombies, Run! does not interface with any streaming service you might currently use. As a big fan of Spotify, I have most of my music tied up in their service, so it was a sad moment to realize that I was going to have to use actual, real mp3 files as background music. Fortunately, I found a fantastic playlist on Reddit’s /r/Runner5 (It even has it’s own SubReddit!) that works perfectly with my run. Another negative I’ve found (and this may just be an issue with my phone and not the app itself) is that I could never really get the GPS to lock on. Fortunately, Zombies, Run! also works with the accelerometer, so I’m still able to track my paces and, frankly, I’m not the biggest fan of sharing my run map with the world. My final gripe, and not one that I can truly complain about, would be the price. Regularly priced at $8, Zombies, Run! is a bit on the steep side. You get a lot of content, but the story is such that when you get to the last mission, there isn’t much else left to do. The makers of Zombies, Run! have made mention of a “Second Season” with more missions, but have made no indicating remarks as to whether it would be free, or cost an additional amount of money. I was fortunate enough to catch the game on sale (which may still be going on at the Play Store).
I can’t say enough good things about Zombies, Run! and cannot recommend it enough. If you’re like me, and need extra motivation to get off the couch and start running, and you’re a big fan of things like AMC’s The Walking Dead, books like World War Z, and just about everything else zombie-related, then Zombies, Run! is a must buy. Get over the price quickly, and realize that you’re getting at least 30 missions-worth of immersive story, excellent voice work and sound effects, and more motivation than you can shake a dismembered arm at.
Gadget Guru Recommendation: Splurge on this one if you want to get in shape and feel like Rick Grimes. It’s worth every penny.
How does a company enter a market that is 6 years old? Slices for Twitter (Currently ad-supported in the Play Store) hopes to answer that question as it takes the Android community by storm. With features not found in any other Twitter client, Slices puts a new twist on Twitter in the mobile market. Are the changes and additions enough to make this a daily driver for the average Twitter user? Is the app strong enough to hold up against the plethora of other apps currently on the market? Let’s find out!
So, in a market that seems to get a new Twitter client almost weekly, how can a company make their app stand out in the crowd? If you’re OneLouder, you attempt to completely change the way that people view their timeline. Normally, users get a chronological timeline of tweets, oftentimes losing track of where they’ve started and stopped. This list can get exponentially more difficult to follower if a user has a larger-than-average follower/following list. What Slices does is allow you to take your followers and group them based on common characteristics. Slices will also attempt to auto-populate a few Slices to give you an example of what can exist in the “Slices”. I found that the slices that it did create for me were pretty accurate, but not necessarily slices that I would normally keep and check. In all honesty, I’m still at a loss as to how Slices is any different than the often-forgotten Twitter lists feature. I totally get what they’re trying to do with their Slice mentality. By breaking your timeline into slices, you’re able to follow events live, bookmark favorite accounts and discover new people to follow, but I’m just not 100% sure it’s a feature worth building an app around.
What It Gets Right
One of the best features of Slices is the ability to follow along with Live Events. As per their app description, “Each stream displays a feed of tweets from the “right” people for today’s events, like sports, TV shows, and other happenings.” This is a great feature right now, making following things like the Olympics fairly easy.
Presentation-wise, Slices is a very nice looking app. The menu system is easy to understand and navigate through, and the style and design of the app make this one of the better looking Twitter apps out on the market. OneLounder has an excellent pedigree, especially in the field of Twitter, with their older app TweetCaster being an Editor’s Choice App, and one of the best reviewed on the market. It’s no surprise, then, that Slices follows in their footsteps in regards to design and presentation.
Slices also does some amazing things in the stat-tracking department. Slices gives you the ability to see daily stats about followers, tweets, trends and things happening worldwide. If you’re a power Twitter user, Slices definitely has some features you’ll find interesting and useful.
Where it Falls Short
There’s a disturbing trend happening in the Google Play store as-of-late, and it seems to be particularly affecting Twitter applications. It seems that each new Twitter client that comes out is only being released with partial features. This app, for example, doesn’t allow you to reply-to-all. Seriously? Reply-to-All is one of the most basic features necessary in any mobile app. Twitter is all about sharing conversations with people, and to not be able to do that is a glaring omission. To add insult to injury, there is no auto-population of usernames if you “@” somebody. These two lacking features make having conversations with more than one person incredibly difficult to maintain.
The app is also a bit buggy. I’d love to chalk it up to the fact that I was running CM10 on my Galaxy Nexus, but in an un-related move I installed a different ROM (Eclipse 2.0, if you’re wondering) and the app still had issues. My most-often found bug seemed to be related to the timeline. I could be in the middle of scrolling, and the app would be loading new tweets. When the tweets were loaded, the timeline snapped back to the location I had started my scroll. It got to be really frustrating if my timeline loading more than 20 or so new tweets. I constantly felt like I was backtracking.
The notifications also seemed to just randomly occur. I had mine set to every 10 minutes, but found myself opening the app after 15 or so and finding that I had missed a few replies at the 7-minute mark. Notifications seem to be one of the toughest things an Android developer has to deal with, and Slices just hasn’t nailed it cleanly on this app.
Slices definitely seems like it was developed for a very niche market. It’s unfortunate, then, that the market they’re targeting was not the market of which I’m currently a member. The features outside of the “Slice” feature are really nice, but not something I find myself using constantly. If I need analytical data about tweets, there’s a good chance I’m in front of a computer where I can see that information a lot better. There aren’t a whole lot of events I need to follow live, either. Twitter does enough of that on its own.
Slices is not going to be my daily driver for Tweeting. In fact, at the time of writing this review, I’ve actually uninstalled the app. Don’t get me wrong, Slices is probably a great app. It’s designed incredibly well, for the people who are going to use those features, and it really is easy on the eyes. But it’s busy and, as my brain slips further and further into old age an senility, I need less clutter when it comes to Twitter. If stat tracking, live streaming, and organization are what you’re looking for in a Twitter client, I cannot recommend Slices enough. Let me re-iterate that.
If you like organizing your Twitter world into oblivion, love live streaming/tweeting events and want to track every stat under the sun (Twitter related), then Slices is the app you need.
But for me? Slices is just one of those knives you keep in your drawer, and only pull out to show off every once in a while.
With the latest update to the Android version of Spotify, the company has finally brought the long-awaited Radio feature to mobile handsets. Having already been on iOS and the PC/Mac version for a few weeks now, many Android users were left wondering when they would get their update and what features it would bring to their version of Spotify. How does it stack up to the previous version? How does it stack up against other radio-like apps on Android?
The latest update, as previously mentioned, brings a feature that is relatively new to Spotify as a whole, and definitely new to the mobile versions. With the new Radio feature, users are now able to build “stations” around artists, songs and genres that select similar music. As if thanking Android users for waiting patiently, Spotify has also included the radio feature for users of the non-premium version of Spotify. Spotify offsets the loss of subscription by playing ads throughout the radio play.
How does it work? In my brief time using it, I would have to say that the Spotify Radio feature works pretty darn well. There are two different methods for selecting and creating radio stations. Users first have the option of building a station through artist/genre/song search. By selecting a result, a station is then built up based on similarities. Users then have the ability to “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” songs that they like or dislike in an effort to better fit the station to their liking. I particularly like this feature for the random times the comparison algorithm picks a song that I don’t feel fits. Having a Lionel Richie song pop up in my station based on “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” might seem to fit on paper, but one listen and you’ll see they just aren’t a match.
The other option users have is creating a station based upon a pre-existing playlist. This feature is actually really neat, especially if you’ve got an eclectic playlist.
How does Spotify stack up against its competitors? It really seems that they’ve taken a little bit of everyone else and added it into their product. With the “Music Genome” aspect of Pandora, Spotify builds playlists based around musical similarities. Adding in playlist based stations, Spotify seems to be going after I Heart Radio and Slacker Radio. About the only thing missing from the Spotify Radio is the “mood selection” found in the more recent Android App, Songza. I’ve personally never been a huge fan of music being selected by mood, so I’m pretty much okay with that feature not being included in Spotify.
With On-demand music and a huge selection, Spotify has always been my personal go-to for streaming music. With the added feature of a “Radio”, Spotify doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere in my plethora of music apps. This latest update really brings a completeness to Spotify, and aligns it with it’s big brother on the PC and Mac. My family currently pays for two Spotify premium accounts so if this post doesn’t show you how much I like the service and apps, that fact alone should speak volumes. I really like what Spotify has done so far, and can’t wait to see where Spotify goes in the future.
Arguably (one of) the toughest app on any device to get right is the application for Twitter. There are many reasons why it is so difficult to get it right: people being the biggest reason of all. Everyone uses Twitter in such a myriad of ways that it is difficult to find the client that suits how you use twitter. Speaking from experience I think I have downloaded nearly every notable Twitter client for the iPad and still I find them (the clients) lacking in one way or another.
Of all the Twitter clients I’ve tried Tweetbot is at the top of a very long list of Twitter clients. Tweetbot ranks among the top of all Twitter clients because it easy to use while still being robust enough to handle the most demanding of Twitter users. Among the more useful features are sliding a tweet right to view replies and sliding left for more detailed view of the tweet (scroll up for replies, if any exist). Most timelines include the ability to search the downloaded tweets (use search on the left navigation bar for a more powerful search).
What Tweetbot doesn’t do for you is make you fit into how the developer envisioned the application being used as the only way it can be used. Tweetbot offers quite a few options to help customize it to suit you. You can change the font size (tiny to huge), display name ( full name, user name or both), date format, navigation (hiding or displaying favorites, search, profile, lists, re-tweets and mute filters), streaming, quote format and much more.
Beyond the left and right sliding of tweets Tweetbot makes use of another gesture: triple tap. Triple tapping can cause one of the following user configurable actions: reply, re-tweet, favorite, translate, or view in Favstar. Translation occurs in the app in the form of a dialog box. In the few tweets I tried translating, it translated quick enough to be useful. Presumably translation translates tweets to the default language of the iPad, as this is one of the few features without any user customization. Given that the developer’s domain has DNS entries for Google Apps, translation is likely handled by Google. Having never heard of Favstar I found it to be an odd choice for the triple tap gesture however, users of the site might like it. Favstar allows users to get more detailed information about tweets; think analytics for tweets.
One feature I especially liked is the ability to import and export Twitter accounts into Twitter’s iOS application. This meant I didn’t have to re-type all my Twitter account information to start using Tweetbot. People with multiple Twitter accounts will particularly like the easy transition.
Tip: Leave your Twitter account setup in iOS and uninstall the Twitter app to retain Twitter integration in other applications yet save the space; this will also stop double data and Twitter polls from both Twitter applications.
Alerts in Tweetbot work as they should except for one simple oversight. Tweetbot doesn’t have the ability to run in the background and poll for new tweets in your Twitter stream. Tweetbot alerts for mentions and direct messages any time but the lack of background updating for Twitter stream as a whole feels like an oversight; for users that want or need such a feature. Tweetbot does allow for “streaming” of your Twitter stream but only when open and the active application.
With a simple push of the button, Game Stew Studio hopes to show you a “Reel” good time with its latest release, Tower of Fortune, out now for iOS ($.99). Can a monochrome, slot machine RPG really hope to hold its own amongst some of the heavy hitters currently making the rounds in the iOS App Store? Only The Gadget Gurus can say for sure!
Tower of Fortune attempts to take one of the most complex styles of gameplay and reduce it down to one that takes little-to-no effort. Tower of Fortune is an RPG, set long after the adventurer in the story has retired. His daughter has been taken from him, and there’s nobody left but he to rescue her. That’s about all of the story we’re given and, more or less, all of the direction we’re given for gameplay. You’ll spend the first few minutes trying to figure out what to do, and end up spending a few hundred gold coins in the tavern.
It’s in this tavern that you’ll learn the two basic parts of Gameplay: “Spin” and “Stop”. That’s it. Sure, there’s a few other parts such as assigning weapons and armor and buying goods from the market, but at its heart, Tower of Fortune is a slot machine game.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a lot more fun than it sounds. Each wheel of the slot can have attack, be attacked, earn XP or earn money, with the first wheel dictating the actual turn of play. If more than one wheel matches up, the action is multiplied. This can be good or bad; imagine getting attacked with each wheel matching! Subsequent actions result in combos that amplify the effect of the action.
Unfortunately, none of this is explained to you anywhere, and you’re forced to find it all out on your own. This game would really benefit form some sort of tutorial or manual, and it loses a point or two for its lack. The game will often find players starting out by wasting all of their money at the tavern before they learn how to earn more. You haven’t figured it out, yet, have you?
To make more money, we go back to the main screen and select any portion of the tower (hence, TOWER of Fortune). From here you’ll battle enemies and bosses in an attempt to win back your daughter. The gameplay, while a bit repetitive, is still fun and I’ve found myself coming back to it while doing various tasks throughout the day. With simple, one-handed gameplay, it can be played waiting in line at the supermarket, sitting on the bus on the way to work, or on the couch while you watch TV. Once you’ve figured out HOW to play, it’s a fun little game with a great gameplay style.
Tower of Fortune’s unique, monochrome design is actually quite refreshing. It’s very 8-bit and retro and feels much like the Gameboy games of old. Detail isn’t applied so much to the graphics, but rather to a gameplay style unique to the app store. In a world full of “HD” and “Retina Display”, having a throw-back to simpler times is pleasing to the eyes and well worth the purchase. The lighter design also makes it easier to see in the dark, so if you’re concerned about waking your significant other while you play in bed, you can turn down the brightness and still see the game.
Enemy units are all unique and follow themes based on your location in the tower. Bosses are bigger than the average enemy, and all characters animate in a retro-style that fits in well with the rest of the game. The only issue with the animation and graphic style is the fact that animations happen every time and there’s no way to skip them. After you’ve been bonked on the head with a bottle for the 100th time, you’ll wish something else would animate.
In line with the graphic style, the sound design is 100% retro. It’s a lot of chiptune-type, 8-bit digital music and it really fits with the overall style of the game. At maximum volume, it can get a bit loud, but is pleasing to the ears at lower volumes. Each move of each character makes noise, and Big Stew has stated that they have plans to increase the amount of background music and make improvements there. Much like games of yore, the sound and background music can get repetitious, which seems to fall in line with the rest of the game.
With a retro feel in both sight and sound, and a simple style of gameplay, Tower of Fortune has the chance to provide a decent amount of fun. Players who find time consuming games a bit too…time consuming, will enjoy the quick-hit style of one-click play, and players looking for a bit more under the hood will enjoy the RPG elements. Neither style really overpowers the other, which may deter users who would prefer one over the other, but this game is certainly playable by players of any skill level. While sound and animation can be a bit repetitious, it shouldn’t drive players away from enjoying this game. At $.99, this game is perfectly priced and certainly prepared to give you a dollar’s worth of entertainment.
Guru Review Score: